Sajee Seneviratne on Mendes Ceylon

Designer 1-2-1: Sajee Seneviratne

Having launched her brand Mendes in 2018 Sajee had made great strides in Colombo’s fashion sphere. Her designs are fresh, cool and convey a sense of joy de vivre that embodies Sajee’s personality.

What sparked your interest in fashion design?
I wanted to have a career in the creative industry. For me, it was either interior or fashion. However, my love for clothes and the change in seasons, style and clothes made me choose fashion design as a career. On top of everything, I have always been seriously in love with the idea of becoming a fashion designer.

What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
Following my childhood dream, when I started my education as a fashion student in 2011, I learnt how serious and hardworking this industry really is. Many see only the glamorous side of the fashion industry from the outside, but it really is a serious industry that needs a lot of hard work to make that glamour happen. Most people are not aware of the hard process that it takes to make a proper brand name and become successful in this industry.

Are you self-taught or did you study fashion design?
It is a creative industry. Therefore, it is quite impossible to become a fashion designer without being self-taught. It’s all about how creative you are. There is no book or formula to say what is right. We have to keep updating ourselves and let the creativity spark from inside. 
However, creativity alone would not help you make your ideas come out, you need the technical knowledge, methodologies, experience and a lot of inspiration. For me, studying at AOD under their guidance was the path to make my dream a reality.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
It has been a very short period since I started and I have done only a few exclusive collections to ensure that I put the right designs out. In any creative industry having the right pace is the answer. 

With every single collection I have done, it made me a better designer and a better creative entrepreneur. Each mistake is an opportunity to learn something new, something you will not learn from a book or a school. With many lessons learnt, today I have managed to bring the label to where it is now. Yet much more mistakes to make, lessons to learn and success to achieve in the future.

Are there any types of clothing that you avoid designing?
I have been a vegetarian for the past 15 years and I have strong principles towards animal cruelty and sustainable living. I have never and in the future do not intend to use silk or leather made out of animal fur in the garments I design. 

Where do you look for creative inspiration?
My aesthetic when it comes to my brand is minimal. I look at trends from international catwalks to old Ceylon paintings and carvings and art for inspiration. Also, I am very fascinated with the change in the style of clothing that happened after every invasion in the history of Sri Lanka and colonization.

Describe your latest collection?
The new collection aesthetic is a minimal colour palette and soft linen silhouettes with hemlines, that is long with easy fit, and slits. Designed with jacquard details, strong tailoring in pieces that fits to every occasion. We also have designed a few batik pieces with linen with simple patterns by working with traditional batik artisans of Sri Lanka.

Who is your muse?
This changes from time to time with the mood of the season. Now, at this moment. I find Queen Rania of Jordan’s style to be quite interesting. 

What are your sustainability credentials?
My sustainable guideline always follows on working with local craftsman communities on textile developments and my strong policy of vegan textiles. As a commercial sustainable practice, we have also reduced the use of single-use Polybags in packaging and garment deliverers.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I am fascinated with minimal style. Living through the post-covid-19 era, being stuck in one place made me difficult to breathe and made me realize that we are dangerously overproducing and over-consuming everything. From fashion, to food, to everything in human lifestyle is a constant competition. 
I found a way out of it by sticking to ‘simple living’ which I am currently obsessed with. It sure reflects on my work as well. 

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?
How to survive on my own and to take constructive criticism without disappointment.

What’s your motto?
Break the rules, Live your life! 

Which international or local designers are you inspired by?
Internationally I look at all the designers I could think of from Alexander McQueen to Victoria Beckham for inspiration. There’s so much to learn from every designer out there regardless of the fame or the type of design.

What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
The whole world has changed with social media. It is a positive change for me as I see it and how I utilize it.

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